A few months ago, whilst partaking in a fairly routine clear-out of our loft, amidst the decrepit monopoly set, old PC hard drives and Beatrice Potter ornaments; there was a rather enticing pile of CD’s which till recently, belonged to my uncle. In this goldmine were gems such as Bauhaus, The Cure, Pearl Jam, Stooges and others from days gone by. However, as well as this, was an eponymous album by a band called ‘Codeine Velvet Club’, who I knew absolutely nothing about.
So, 2 Sundays of bickering and roast dinner related trauma later, I thought I’d give this album a listen. I really loved the whole thing, its unique blend of cabaret, baroque-pop and garage rock clatter blew me away. The album featured 2 dominant vocalists, a male and a female. The male vocal, whilst being the weaker in my humble opinion, really reminded me of someone deeply lodged in the distant reaches of my long-term memory. After a quick Wikipedia update I was impressed to find that the male vocalist was Jon Lawler of The Fratellis, a voice that had left me going ‘Oh it’s what’s-his-face from that band’ for the album’s entire duration prior to the discovery of his true identity.
Most people associate The Fratellis with lad-stomper Chelsea Dagger or CBBC sound beds like Henrietta and Baby Fratelli, but this was completely different. It featured lush orchestral arrangements countered by the powerful nostalgia evoking vocals of female vocalist Lou Hickey, I was left feeling deceived.
Codeine Velvet Club became a thing after Jon had finished touring The Fratellis’ Here We Stand album as something to do and recording began after Lawler’s wife introduced him to Glaswegian singer-songwriter Lou Hickey to record this album. Anyway, whilst the album isn't perfect, it’s pretty good, better than anything The Fratellis released. (Sorry Jon)
So while many long for the nostalgia of a Fratellis reunion to relive their finest year 6 #LAD stomping sing-alongs, I’m gonna patiently wait for another Codeine Velvet Club album to hit the shelves so I can say that I heard them first.
The discovery of Codeine Velvet Club lead me to the conclusion that maybe the world needs to remember some other cool side-projects that we all forgot about as opposed to the obvious ones (i.e. Grinderman, Broken Bells, Last Shadow Puppets, Gorillaz etc.). So here we go:
Name: Old and in the Way
Side Project of: Jerry Garcia/Grateful Dead
Walking hippy commune Grateful Dead are a band that I've never really been able to appreciate, like if someone gave me an album by them I’d listen, but if my house was burning and that album was still inside, I’d leave it there. However, after being introduced to Old and in the Way by Andrew Hackett, (guitarist in The Rockingbirds and founder of Angel Music) I began to find some amicable quality in the music of Jerry Garcia that wasn't an underwhelming tribute from Kula Shaker.
Old and in the Way draw the fine line between super group and side-project. They were formed in 1973 by Jerry Garcia and John Khan and played fairly standard bluegrass music, a genre of which my knowledge is limited yet I find easy to enjoy. Old and in the Way’s initial formation was short-lived but not lacking in creativity with 4 studio albums recorded between ’73 and ’74. Despite their eponymous debut being one of the biggest selling bluegrass records of all-time and a 2002 reformation, (minus Garcia and Khan) Old and in the Way remain strangely forgotten. Blending playful melodies and wistful harmonies with fun upbeat accompaniment, regardless of your opinion on bluegrass or Grateful Dead, their rendition of Rolling Stones/Susan Boyle hit Wild Horses as well as more conventional folk songs such as Pig in the Pen can’t help but bring a smile to your face. As well as being a good band, they also helped me learn to appreciate a band that had never particularly intrigued me, whilst I wouldn't call myself an avid ‘Deadhead’, OAITW helped me learn to love a band I'd never thought I would.
Hear a bit here
Name: Diane Coffee
Side Project/random solo record of: Foxygen
Foxygen are a band who waltzed out of nowhere then just exploded into one of the biggest 60’s revival bands in the world at the moment, with their sonically unorthodox changes of melody and colourful blend of everything they heard in the 60’s from Scott McKenzie to Todd Rundgren, the popularity is understandable.
In 2013, Foxygen drummer and former Disney voice-actor Shaun Fleming got really ill and spent 2 weeks indoors recording what would later become album ‘My Friend Fish’ under a solo-project entitled Diane Coffee. It was a fairly chaotic recording process involving cabin fever and a home-made drum kit but in just over 2 weeks, the album was finished and it’s fantastic to say the least. How it didn't break into the mainstream I don't know. The album also played a part in contributing the single Green which was hands down my favourite single of 2013. These songs alone should beckon the listener to hit up label Western Vinyl and buy the fucking album. With Green’s Phil Spector-inspired backing vocals, tear-jerking lyrics (I’ll feed you soup and I’ll hold your hand, ‘cos I will never leave you baby) and the pet sounds-esque arrangement, that track makes me melt every time I hear it and dream of a new album to follow-up the wonderful My Friend Fish. So keep an eye out for Diane’s next album which should be finished in 2015.
Hear a bit here
Name: Space Lime Peacock
Side-project of: Tame Impala/Pond
The Perth music scene is incredible to say the least, with musicians being traded between bands like they’re Yu-Gi-Oh! cards on a primary school playground. Whether it be the Parisian dream-pop of Melody’s Echo Chamber or the psych-pop symphonies of Tame Impala that tickles your fancy, there’s always something happening. Space lime-peacock, like Old and in the Way,
Space Lime Peacock weren't around very long, but with a name like that, any sort of commercial success or formality wouldn't feel right. The band most notably consisted of Impala veterans Kevin Parker and Jay Watson as well as Pond founding-member Nick Allbrook and a few others milling around the ever evolving Perth scene. SLP’s music consisted of psych-funk influenced Space Rock. Their most notable track is the fantastically named Shit A Cosmic Jam which is an 8 minute space-rock epic that incorporates a range of influences from Cream, Amorphous Androgynous and King Crimson to Beastie Boy’s trippy funk jazz song Time for Livin’. The track is a fun-filled, anarchic jam that deserves some recognition, because as far Australian avant-garde, cosmic, funk jams go; it’s brilliant.
Hear Some Space Lime Peacock here
Name: The Glove
Side-Project of: The Cure/Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Whilst fellow Siouxsie side project The Creatures enjoyed moderate success, Goth heartthrob Robert Smith, The Banshees’ Steven Severin and former Zoo dancer Jeanette Landray formed The Glove as a way of killing some time and battling Smith’s crippling depression filled drug addiction. With new-wavey pop songs that make you wanna dance till your legs ache, swirling synths and phenomenally overlooked vocal performances from Landray, the goth-pop trio’s only album Blue Sunshine was an undisputed masterpiece that never got the attention it truly deserved. Despite dark undertones, the album is full of great pop-music that lingers on your mind like a good bacon sarnie when you're hungover. With the substance that made acts like Yazoo and well… The Cure so big, it’s a shame this album was never given the commercial recognition it deserved and that Smith never really wanted. Like many of god’s favourite side-projects, The Glove had too short a life-span, but with 1 classic album to prevent any flaws in their discography, maybe it helps preserve the great music.
Hear a bit of The Glove
Name: Matt Berry
Side-Project of: Matt Berry
You may know Matt Berry as pervy CEO, Douglas Reynholm from the IT crowd as well as the guy that keeps being in everything; well you may not know he’s an incredibly talented musician and songwriter. I first came across his music work when some friends from Acid Jazz Records gave me some vinyl, amidst this was Matt Berry albums Witchazel and Kill the Wolf. The album covers were good enough for me, seeing Douglas Reynholm with a pheasant made me feel that simply owning the LP [Witchazel] before I even listened to it was a life success.
It’s fair to say both albums are pretty fantastic, with echoes of Robin Hardy’s classic movie ‘The Wickerman’ and Julian Cope’s criminally overlooked Fried, both albums just blew me away. The albums also possesses a cauldron of influences, whilst being primarily folk-revival orientated, there are splashes of The Byrds, Donovan, Herbie Hancock, Eno, Roxy Music, Spirit and lots of other weird and wonderful artists that he sprinkles his magic over.
Standout singles include the irresistibly catchy Medicine from Kill the Wolf as well as the lyrically and melodically beautiful Take my Hand from Witchazel (theme tune to Matt Berry comedy Toast). With a live band that includes The Bluetones’ Mark Morriss, collaboration with Paul McCartney and another completely different and brilliant studio album under his belt, Matt Berry music guy is starting to catch up with Matt Berry actor guy. If he can keep up with such a steady output of great albums, fun live shows and cult following, he could stop being the ‘bloke off the telly’ and become ‘the bloke off the radio’.
Hear a bit.
But there are still a lot of other really successful and great side-projects, a small number include Cat’s Eyes, Panda Bear, Dead Weather, The Raconteurs and The Breeders etcetera and who’s to say the ones in this article won’t be exhibited to a new audience? So to conclude this journey, just remember, next time you’re bored, ill, battling addiction or sick of your commercial success, form a side-project! It could be the catalyst for a new-found popularity that could launch your career and cement a future in the music business; it certainly did wonders for Miles Kane.
(Written by George Orton)